Grace Notes for Lent 2

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Sung Versions of Pastoral – Songs of Love and Courtship

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A night of Robert Burns’ pastoral songs, a night in the Marama Hall, well attended, presented by Professor Nigel Leask of the University of Glasgow, and accompanied by the University’s Department of Music.  The singers and musicians passing themselves off as unquestionably fine.

I thought my edition of Burns was the Complete Poems and Songs, however I can’t find his naughty poem When maukin bucks… listed under any of its titles or lines.  Prurience perhaps, when others are included?

One hundred and thirty love songs, in a life’s work of over five hundred pieces.  Burns was more literate and familiar with his country’s poetry and sung culture than his persona suggests.  He sought out material and made it presentable, often preserving what would otherwise have been lost.

He funded himself supporting himself as an excise man.  “[Y]ou may think my songs either above, or below, price; for they shall absolutely be the one or the other. In the honest enthusiasm with which I embark in your undertaking, to talk of money, wages, fee, hire, and etc. could be downright Sodomy of Soul!”

The final word from Lord Byron, “What an antithetical mind, a mixture of dirt and deity!”

Robert Burns

Robert Louis Stevenson and the South Seas

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We have been uncertain of things…Tusitala spoke out.

G. K. Chesterton

The world is so full of a number of things, I sure we should all be as happy as kings

Philosophically an optimist: My bed is like a little boat.  He had a reason for being right where he was at the moment.

  1. Imperialistic expansion into the Pacific.
  2. Literary fascination
  3. Missionary effort — The London Missionary Society.

That’s not why Stevenson was there.  It motivated the British, the Americans, the Germans to be active in the same area at that time.  Stevenson was six years in the Pacific, four years in Samoa.  He died suddenly when he was 44 years old, from a stroke.  I’m older than Stevenson now.  He accomplished so much.

“Man most interesting”.  Natives needed to move towards civilisation (Science, Cricket, Christianity).  Stevenson accepted that without indentifying natives as savages.  They were something different, “more manly ways of life”, without the falsity of western urban life, the falsity of club and college life.

It was in Samoa that the word ‘home’ first began to have a real meaning for these gypsy wanderers.

Nellie Van De Grift Sanchez

What does Stevenson find?  What does Stevenson bring?  There is no ‘Rosebud’ moment.  Stevenson could be both a horizontal nomadic writer (Pakeha) and a vertical wounded homelander writer (Maori)

I saw the rain falling and the rainbow drawn on Lammermuir…in my precipitous city.

The world was like all new painted.

A strong notion of history, starting with A Page of History to A Footnote to History, a far off land of which we know nothing.  The handful of whites have everything — the natives walk in a foreign town.  Stevenson wrote a polemical pamphlet.  We are in the thick of the age of finance; they are in a period communism, a communism of a communal culture where everything is shared.

Stevenson, an exile, (a migrant?) wrote about morality, corruption and mystical evil.  Where did he keep the bottle?

Home is the sailor, home from the sea.


Scotland’s Future

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Is this multi-cultural enough to reflect the Scottish people?

The Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies invited Michael Russell, the Scottish Parliament’s Minister for Education and Life-long Learning, to address a lecture in Dunedin while he was in New Zealand for a conference on education.  He arrived with a copy of the Scottish block-buster Scotland’s Future and demonstrated how he has been flourishing it around Scotland like a revivalist preacher.  A solid creed.

Dunedin put on a welcome for the Scottish minister, wind and rain that meant my shoes have been wet all day.  The lecture was a little slow in starting.  Bigger than usual representation of young migrant Scots in the audience too.  They had their say when it came to question time.

The trickiest question the minister quoted was, Would Edward Snowden be given asylum in an independent Scotland.  As he has already been elected rector of Edinburgh University for 2014 there’s already a job opening for him.

The question on the table for the lecture remains the same as the referendum, 200 days away: Should Scotland be an independent country?

What I noted of his argument was from his portfolio.  The Scottish Parliament has a ministry committed to youth employment.  Education should not leave the learner poor.  Even if the autonomous parliament has oversight restraints remain on education opportunities that is controlled from Westminster.  Don’t lean on a nation as thrawn as the Scots and tell them what they cannot do!  There are 10 million hands in Scotland.

The No-campaign is mired in the history of Scottish politics  It has not taken up the third option: to argue for the possibility of a new union of the five nations of Britain: England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and London.  The Unionists need to present new ideas.

Sailing to an Island

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…the stories circulate like smoke…
A long time since…
…go here…

I attended a talk on the Poetry of Irish and Scottish Islands.  Dr Lucy Collins from the University College Dublin gave us samples from three generations of poetry.

An Island Man, by Jack B. Yeats (1907)

I learnt a new word: archipelagic.  Us islanders are not isolated.  We are joined, by the sea.

In the urban setting the isolation and solitude of island life becomes the mark of authenticity of a culture, returning to its origin.  The island is a place of peace in contrast to the city as a place of conflict.  The non-industrial states articulate an independent national culture, or a culture of the people within the British Union, a negotiation between a supra-cultural literature and the literature from the periphery.

One seems to wash off the dust of cities, the dust of belief.

I live at the edge of the universe, like every one else.

When the people move there, the island moves with them.

And when the Island is not nice:

They lashed him to old timbers
that would barely float
with weights at the feet so
only his face was out of water.
Over his mouth and eyes
they tied two live mackeral
with twine, and pushed him
out from the rocks.
They stood, then,
smoking cigarettes
and watching the sky,
waiting for a gannet
to read that flex of silver
from a hundred feet up,
close its wings
and plummet-dive

Law of the Island, Robin Robertson

Introduction to Gaelic Language 3

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Things to remember:

Sin e That’s it! You have it!  Sin thu-fhéin Good on you! (or Onya! as the young people say)

Sin mar a tha e That’s the way it is.

Ma ‘s e do thoil Please, literally If it is your will.

Tapadh leat Thank you, literally success with you (very Klingon!).  Tapadh leibh in the plural, or using polite address.

‘S e do bheatha, You’re welcome, literally He is your life.

Cuideachd Also. A rithist! Again! A-nis Now.

Chì mi Di-luain See you on Monday.

Ciamar a tha do mhisneach? How’s your cheer?  (Misneach, cheer, courage)

Introduction to Gaelic Language 2

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Alba ‘Alaba’ Scotland

Alba Nuadh ‘Alaba Nooagh’ Nova Scotia, literally New Scotland.

Gaelic seems to like inserting an epicentric vowel after an L and R before another consonant.  I imagine it re-inforces the pronunciation of the first sound.

Sealan Nuadh ‘Sheylan Nooagh’ New Zealand.

Dùn Eideann ‘Doon Eydjen’  Edinburgh in Scotland, or Dunedin in New Zealand.  Need to be precise.

An t-Eilean a Tuath ‘an Cheylen a Tooa’, The North Island.

An t-Eilean a Deas ‘an Cheylen a Jess’, The South Island.

‘laa’ day  Math ‘ma’ (short a followed by breath) good, together Là math Good day, g’day

Feasgar math ‘fesker ma’ good afternoon, good evening

Madain mhath ‘madin va’ (dental d) good morning

oidhche mhath ‘aye-cheh va’ good night (at the end of the day)

Gaelic is VSO: Verb Subject Object.

Tha ‘ha’ am, is, are

Tha mise sona I am happy

mi ‘mee’ I, me                  sinn ‘sheen’ we, us

thu ‘oo’ you (thou)        sibh ‘shiff’ you (p0lite)

e ‘eh’ or ‘uh’ he, him, it iad ‘eeat’ they (becomes short in spoken language)

i ‘ee’ she, her, it

Gaelic has no neuter gender.  All nouns are either he or she, depending on what gender is chosen.

I wonder  if Gaelic has kept the initial letters from Indo-European *nos and *vos after a prefixed si– and dropped the ending.

(I need to come back to this post if I ever find a short-cut to formatting!)

tha mi ‘ha mee’ I am      tha sinn ‘ha shin’ we are

tha thu ‘ha oo’ you are tha sibh ‘ha shiff’ you are

tha e ‘ha eh’ he is            tha iad ‘ha’t’ they are

tha i ‘ha ee’ she is

It sounds to me as if the subject pronoun has become a verb ending.  It is dropped when a noun follows and tha is used alone.

As well Gaelic has emphatic and self pronouns and the speaker needs to be comfortable in using them.

mise ‘misheh’ I! me!                            sinne ‘shinnye’ we! us!

thusa ‘oosa’ you!                                  sibhse ‘shivsheh’ you!

esan ‘eshan’ or ‘essan’ he! him! it! iadsan ‘adsan’ they

ise ‘eesheh’ she! her! it!

mi-fhìn ‘mee-heen’ myself    sinn-fhìn ‘shin-heen’ ourselves

thu-fhéin ‘oo-hein’ yourself sibh-fhéin ‘shiff-hein’ yourselves

e-fhéin ‘eh-hein’ himself        iad-fhéin ‘ad-hein’ themselves

i-fhéin ‘ee-hein’ herself

The verb tha can be changed for:

chan eil ‘chan yeyl’ am not, is not, are not

a bheil ‘aveyl’ am? is? are?

nach eil ‘nach eyl’ am not? is not? are not?

The answer is tha, is=yes, and chan eil, is not=no.

The same verb is used with the preposition aig, at, to say ‘to have’, tha clas gàidhlig agam, I have a Gaelic class.

The question words in Gaelic are rather cool:

, who

, what, shortened from Coid e

Ciamar, how, literally what-like

Co ás, where from, literally out of what

Carson, why, literally what for, Cia + airson

Cuine, when, from what time, Cia + uine

Càite, where, from what place, Cia + aite

I know that there is more to write up.  However, obh obh, I’m coming to the end of Matinee Idle for Waitangi Day on the radio, and it’s still a fine day outside.

I can get the structure of the language.  I need to do more work in listening and parsing spoken Gaelic.

Beannachd leibh!

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